The Ebola outbreak which has infected more than 3,000 people in West Africa, now hits a fifth country in the region. After a Guinean student in Dakar was tested positive for the deadly disease, the World Health Organization said the nation is now a “top priority emergency”.
Senegalese authorities confirmed a 21-year-old student was tested and found positive for the Ebola virus. The young man arrived from neighboring Guinea and went to a hospital in the capital Dakar, where tests came positive for Ebola on Friday. Since then, he has been quarantined and currently said to be in a “satisfactory” condition. Senegal is a tourist and transport hub, which may make the task of getting the epidemic under control much more complicated. Although the nation had previously closed its land border with Guinea and stopped air and sea travel from Sierra Leone and Liberia, the patient was out of quarantine for more than a week. Doctors worry about the contacts he may have had, so the house where he stayed in is also isolated.
As of August 26, Ebola has infected 3,062 people and killed 1552 of them, according to official data by the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the number of cases may be vastly underreported, also said the UN health agency. The actual numbers could be two to four times those reported and as the outbreak is currently accelerating, it could infect more than 20,000 people before it is brought under control. Nearly half of the cases have occurred in the last three weeks, although the epidemic began in March. However, the fatality rate is lower than in previous outbreaks – around 52%, which means approximately 48% of the patients survive.
This is clearly the worst Ebola epidemic on record – in the past, cases occurred in distant rural areas and the outbreak would die out (as patients died) faster than it could spread. This time, densely populated urban regions are also affected, which complicated the situation and helps the rapid spread of the disease. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and most recently Sweden, have reported suspected Ebola cases. Tests in all were negative.
Meanwhile, various treatments and vaccines against the deadly Ebola virus are under development. One of them, ZMapp, was administered to two Americans who recovered from the infection and its killing symptoms. Now, scientists say, the drug has cured 100% of the monkeys infected by the virus in a new study.